The great British seaside treat fish & chips gets a vegan makeover with delicious, flaky marinated banana blossom fish, cooked in a light and crisp beer batter. Perfect with chips, vinegar and tartare sauce.
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Over the last 12 months we've all been dreaming of simple freedoms - small pleasures we previously took for granted and people and places we're missing. Whilst some are pining for exotic holidays, intrepid travel and luxury hotels, for many of us it is beer gardens, BBQs with family and friends and fish and chips on the sea wall on a blustery day.
I can't give you sunshine, sea or salty air, but I can give you the most epic vegan fish and chips you have tasted, using marinated banana blossom cooked in a light and crisp beer batter.
Serve this with triple-cooked chips (see below for the method), and you will have a truly memorable quintessentially British fish and chip supper, without ever missing the fish.
🌱 What is Banana Blossom?
Banana blossom is, quite literally, a flower or 'blossom' that grows at the end of a cluster of bananas. It has been a traditional food in South-East Asian and Indian cuisines for a long time, but has only recently become trendy in the west with the recent surge in demand for meat-free and fish-free foods.
It has a flaky texture, whilst still being quite chunky and juicy. A perfect substitute for the texture of fish. Banana blossom doesn't really have a strong flavour of its own, so is usually marinated before cooking. I've used seaweed / nori in the marinade which really gives a taste of the sea, but you can play around with the ingredients and quantities in the marinade to suit your own taste.
📝 What you need
Banana blossom is quite widely available in supermarkets these days, or you can order online - I like this Biona Organic one, or you can buy the Cooks & Co tins in bulk if you eat a lot of fish & chips!
Seaweed thins / crisps or nori This gives a lovely seaside flavour to your 'fish'. I've found seaweed thins / crisps in a lot of supermarkets recently - they don't really float my boat as a replacement for a packet of crisps, but as a seaweed seasoning for vegan fish dishes they are excellent. Look out for these Itsu ones which are good, or you can use a sheet of sushi nori which you might have leftover if you've made my Vegan Sushi Platter.
Soy sauce gives a deeply savoury 'umami' flavour to the banana blossom. I like to use Tamari which has a slightly thicker consistency and more rounded flavour, but any type of soy sauce will be fine here.
Lemon is such a traditional pairing for fish & chips, and cuts through the oil and batter beautifully.
Garlic gives a lovely savoury flavour to the marinade, but don't forget to take out the cloves before cooking the banana blossom, (I forgot the first time I tested the recipe and had a whole mouthful of garlic clove in one bite.... boom!).
Beer makes such a crispy batter - it has tiny little bubbles which form minuscule air pockets for the oil to get in for a super-crispy and quite light tasting batter. But if you don't want to use beer, sparkling water will do a very similar job.
Self-raising flour Again, it is the air bubbles created by the baking powder in self-raising flour that add extra crispness and lightness to the batter.
Oil for frying You can use a vegetable or sunflower oil for frying - anything that is fairly flavourless and has a high smoke point, (definitely not olive or coconut oil).
A few things I find particularly helpful for making this vegan battered 'fish' are:
- Kitchen thermometer This really takes a lot of the fear out of frying for me, (see below!). I have a thermometer from Thermapen (which was a gift – see sponsored recipe here) which I really love, but any kitchen thermometer will be fine. This allows you to get the oil up to the correct temperature for frying, then monitor it as you cook in case it rises or drops.
- Tongs A good pair of tongs are very useful for getting the fillets in and out of the hot oil… please be careful! I like these from OXO.
- Lidded frying pan A good quality frying pan that is fairly deep is important for frying. Always make sure you have a tight-fitting lid close by, so if your oil was to start smoking or a fire started, you could immediately remove it from the heat and put the lid on. I like this lidded sauté pan from Circulon.
🍟 How do I cook chips to go with the 'fish'?
Whilst you have a pan of hot oil on the go, you might as well make your own chips too! These beauties are triple-cooked - par-boiled, fried gently, then fried again to get crispy. This is how I make mine, though you will find plenty of different methods on the internet so look for one that suits your timescales and expectations!
Before cooking your banana blossom fish (you can do this bit earlier in the day):
- You will need 200g potatoes per person - use a good chipping variety - Maris Pipers are ideal.
- Peel them and cut into thick, chunky chips (I like mine about about 1cm thick), then cover them in cold water, rinse until the water runs clear and then pat dry.
- Par-boil them for about 4-5 minutes, or until they are just soft.
- Drain them, pat dry once again. Lay them out on a baking tray and put in the fridge until cold.
- Heat your oil to 120°C to begin with, then cook the chips for around 5 minutes - they should be cooked through but not browned just yet. You may need to do this in smaller batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.
- Take them out of the oil, pat dry again and then put them back in the fridge until needed.
After cooking your banana blossom fish:
- Bring the oil to 160°C, put the chips back in to the oil until they are golden brown and crispy, (once again you might need to do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan).
- Remove and pat dry, season well with salt and vinegar, and serve immediately.
Chunky chips or french fries? Extra-crispy or slightly soggy? How do you like yours?
🤔 How else can I make vegan 'fish'?
Banana blossom isn't the only way to re-create a battered fish-style fillet at home. You can also try 'tofish' - fish made from tofu.
Slice a block of extra-firm tofu, (I use Tofoo or sometimes Cauldron), into three large, flat slices. Squeeze out any excess moisture and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Use the same marinade as the banana blossom recipe below to marinate it for 3-4 hours or ideally overnight in the fridge.
Then just continue with the recipe from step 5. below, coating the tofu fillets in flour then batter, and frying until crisp and golden.
👩🏽🍳 What do I serve with my banana blossom fish and chips?
A proper 'fish' & chip supper is made extra special by all the bits on the side. As it is a fairly occasional treat, I like to go the whole hog when we do homemade 'fish' & chips, with:
- Homemade ketchup like my epic Beetroot & Chilli Ketchup - it has quite a kick to it, but you can leave out the chilli if you prefer.
- Mushy peas which I make quite simply by boiling peas, draining them then mashing with a potato masher with a little vegan butter. Or if you want a more authentic chip shop flavour, there's a good BBC recipe using Marrowfat Peas - just replace the butter with vegan block margarine.
- Salt and vinegar mustn't be skimped on.
- Pickled onions but they must be really big and very sharp ones, (not the puny little silverskins you get on sticks!)
- ....and of course your very own homemade Vegan Tartare Sauce!
What else do you serve with your vegan 'fish' & chip suppers?
😳 Scared of frying?
I am! Anything involving a pan of hot oil gives me the heebie-jeebies, but it doesn’t need to be scary. Here are a few top tips:
- Use about 2-3cm oil, and make sure it comes no more than half way up the sides of the pan, so there is room for it to bubble up the sides.
- Check the oil temperature as it heats, and whilst cooking – it should stay close to 180°C / 350°F. See above for a recommended thermometer.
- Use long-handled tongs or a large slotted spoon to get your 'fish' in and out of the oil, and allows excess oil to drain.
- Don’t fry very wet food to avoid splatters. Make sure you squeeze the moisture out of the marinated banana blossom before battering.
- Don’t leave hot oil unattended even for a moment, and keep kids out of the kitchen.
- Keep a close-fitting lid close by, in case the oil should catch fire. If you don’t have a lid, a baking tray would do.
To dispose of the cooking oil, please don’t pour it down the sink or drain – it can cause serious blockages. Small quantities of oil can be disposed of with your food waste, or you can recycle larger quantities at household recycling centres in the UK.
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Vegan Banana Blossom 'Fish'
For the marinated banana blossom:
- 2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 5 g seaweed thins / crisps or 1 sheet nori (sushi wrapper)
- 1 tin banana blossom (400, or 250g drained weight)
For the batter:
- 75 g self-raising flour plus a little extra for coating the fillets
- 2 tsp cornflour
- ½ tsp salt
- 135 ml beer (check it is vegan) or sparkling water if you prefer
- oil for frying
To marinate the banana blossom:
- In an airtight container with a lid (such as a tub or tupperware box), mix the oil, soy sauce and juice of the lemon. Peel the garlic cloves and give them a bash with the flat side of your knife. Add a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper.
- Take the seaweed thins or nori sheets and crush them into small flakes or a powder - either in a pestle and mortar or a mini-chopper / small blender. Add them to the marinade.
- Drain the tin of banana blossom and rinse thoroughly under a cold tap.
- Dry out as much as possible with kitchen paper then put it into the tub and use your hands to mix it around until it is fully coated with the marinade. Put in the fridge for 3-4 hours or ideally overnight.
To make the batter:
- Weigh the flour, cornflour and salt in a large jug or bowl.
- Add the beer and whisk until it is a smooth batter. It should be a pouring consistency, a bit like double cream. If it is too thin, add a little more flour, and if too thick add more beer or water.
- Get your marinated banana blossom out of the fridge, and remove the garlic cloves. Tip some extra flour onto a small plate. Pour the batter into another shallow bowl or plate.
- Dust your hands with a little flour, then pick up half of the banana blossom. Push the pieces together firmly, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Squash it into roughly the shape of a fish fillet.
- Thoroughly coat the banana blossom fillet with flour. Repeat with the remaining banana blossom to make a second fillet.
- Pour oil into a wide pan until it is 1-2cm deep. Heat it until it reaches 180°C (or if you don't have a thermometer, stick the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil. If you see lots of bubbles form around the wood, your oil is ready for frying. If it is bubbling hard, the oil is too hot; let it cool a bit and check the temperature again).
- Dip one floured fillet into the beer batter, turning over a few times until it is fully coated.
- Use a pair of tongs to put your fillet into the oil. Repeat for the second fillet.
- Cook the banana blossom fillets for 4-5 minutes on each side, turning regularly.
- Remove them with tongs onto a piece of kitchen paper to drain excess oil. If you are cooking chips, now is the time to cook them.
- Serve with salt and vinegar, ketchup, tartare sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Delicious!